A pack of competent, adventure-hungry women trek up the hill to a new rock-climbing site for an alpine start.
“Ummm…Lauren? Where are you going?” asks Addi, the spunky dive instructor from Singapore. “1-2-3 Wall, of course! It’s just 20 meters up the way.” I exuberantly reply. I was totally confident that I was leading my new friends in the right direction to the right climbing area. I was wrong. I had led us nearly an hour out of our way. The moment Addi shed light on her doubts, the others began to fidget and express some concerns. I felt mob mentality was taking over and the tables were turning from Lauren being the confident leader, to Lauren being a totally incompetent outdoors woman. Alas, on our first day climbing together, with what I had hoped would become friends, I made a fool of myself.
So there I was, the jerk who led her new tribe to the wrong destination. At this stage, I could have taken a few different routes.
- I might have tried to blame someone else for giving me bad directions.
- I might have said I thought they wanted to come to this climbing wall.
- I might have got all red in the face and stuttered something unintelligible and shuffled away with my tail between my legs.
All of these options seemed pretty good when I was hit by a wall of shame, vulnerability and defensiveness at my own failing. What I actually did was pretty simple, but not so easy. I said, “I am sorry.” I told this group of diverse, dynamic, go-getter women that I had led them astray and that I was in the wrong for having potentially messed up their entire plan for the day of rock climbing. The transformation that took place with those simple words was palpable. The group went from unsure, tentative and expressing concern, to a supportive, problem-solving team. “Eees ok! We can climb here, zees looks great!” Says Bine, in her adorable German accent. “There’s also a really great café just up the way.” Pipes in Addi.
That moment, in that setting, those women gave one another permission to be women: strong, bold, fallible and beautiful…
I thank them for their understanding and flexibility, feeling a wave of gratitude and relief. Yea, it is ok I thought. I don’t always have to be that steadfast, kick butt leader that everyone can turn to all the time. I can be human too. What a relief! As we troupe up the bamboo slatted steps to the outdoor café and ask for coffee, we are in high spirits. The wonderful, kind Thai man behind the counter set about making us coffee. He is meticulous in grinding his beans fresh in a burr grinder, portioning out the perfect grounds to water ratio and heating the water to just the right temperature.
We all sit in this idyllic setting, limestone cliffs jutting immediately to our right, lush jungle valley swooping behind and below us, clear blue sky and too many tropical bird songs to keep track of. We started off with the burley plan of starting before sunrise and getting a hard day of climbing in. We ended with magnificent conversation, a beautiful cup of coffee lovingly prepared and a killer day of climbing to top it off. That moment, in that setting with those women who gave one another permission to be women, strong, bold, fallible and beautiful, would become one of those special moments that Bine and I would talk about later. One of those moments that make me so grateful for the life I lead, for the people I meet and for the mistakes I make that sometimes lead to bigger and better experiences.
This was such a simple example of a profound lesson learned. I didn’t make an Earth shattering mistake, I didn’t betray a friend or commit some terrible crime. But I did make a promise that I failed to deliver. I like to try to learn from these small blunders so that hopefully, it will prevent me from making one of those more disastrous mistakes.
I found that owning up to my errors immediately and with honest humility paved the way for stronger relationships and greater trust within those relationships.
And in this particular instance, we not only ended up with open conversation and excellent climbing but a great cup of coffee as well!
Next time you mess up:
- Speak up quickly
- Apologize honestly
- Own it fully
As a result of taking these steps, you will find yourself surrounded by supportive solution seekers as opposed to a judge and jury.